Vladimir Nabokov’s Birthday

Vladimir Nabokov’s Birthday

“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.” — Vladimir Nabokov (April 23, 1899 – July 2, 1977)


Yesterday was the birthday of legendary writer and lepidopterist (butterfly specialist) Vladimir Nabokov. Bru founder Matthew J. Bruccoli was a former student of Nabokov at Cornell University, and Bruccoli later went on to edit Vladimir Nabokov: Selected Letters 1940-1977 with Nabokov’s son Dimitri.

From Poetry Criticism, Volume 167:

Although he is best known as a novelist, Vladimir Nabokov began his career as a poet and continued to compose poetry throughout his life. His published verse comprises some five hundred poems in Russian and twenty-three in English, and scholars suspect these represent a small fraction of his total output. Nabokov also wrote a long narrative poem that is featured in the novel Pale Fire (1962). His early Russian-language poetry appeared in six volumes: Stikhi (1916; may be translated as Poetry), Dva puti: Al’manakh (1918; may be translated as Two Paths: Almanac), Grozd’ (1923; may be translated as The Cluster), Gornii put’ (1923; may be translated as The Empyrean Path), Vozvrashchenie Chorba (1929; may be translated as The Return of Chorb), and Stikhotvoreniia 1929-1951 (1952; may be translated as Poems, 1929-1951). During this period, Nabokov also published poems in periodicals, including the Berlin émigré newspaper Rul’, as well as other journals based in Riga, Prague, and Paris. His English-language poetry appeared in such American publications as the New Yorker and was collected in the volumes Poems (1959) and Poems and Problems (1969). Despite Nabokov’s greater renown as a novelist, scholars have begun to pay serious attention to his poetry, revisiting his early Russian-language works as well as demonstrating the relevance of his poetry to his literary development.

For a more in-depth look at Nabokov’s life and literary career, see the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 369: Vladimir Nabokov: A Documentary Volume, edited by Matthew Beedham (2013).

“Butterflies” by Wilhelm von Kaulbach, 1860. Oil on Canvas. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

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